By the time you get to an interview, the employer has already decided that you meet the minimum qualifications for the position. Your interview is an opportunity for you both to evaluate if you will be a good fit and contribute to the team. It is your chance to highlight your experiences, personality and potential. Whether your interview is in-person or happening virtually, here are some tips to help you prepare and feel confident.
Do your research
Employers love to see that you’ve taken time to get to know their company. You might even be asked a few specific questions about the company, so it can help to do some research before your interview.
Read the “about” section of their website or company blog to learn about recent news and what’s important to them. Check their social media accounts to see what they’re sharing. Be familiar with the job position description, the team and how you might fit. If possible, it can be helpful to know more about the people you’re interviewing with as well. This research can help you talk about how your experiences and skills can benefit the company and the role you are interviewing for.
Additionally, you can research the company on Handshake and Glassdoor. These tools offer an interview section where past interviewees share insight and example questions from actual interviews at the company. This can give you some hints about a company’s interviewing style and application process.
Prepare answers to commonly asked questions
It’s impossible to know exactly what questions will be asked, but you can spend time developing responses to commonly asked interview questions. Write out your responses with key points you want to communicate to keep your answers concise and easy to follow. Include some concrete examples that highlight your talents.
Incorporating stories into your answers is also great for demonstrating your strengths. For example, rather than saying you are very organized, you could share how you helped your student group organize an event and what the outcome was. To do this, try forming your responses with the START method:
- Situation: Provide an overview of the situation (time/place), being specific and succinct.
- Task: Explain the task or goal you were working on as it relates to the skill they asked about.
- Action: Describe your actions and the steps you took.
- Result: Describe the outcome, if possible. This is your time to take credit for your work or show what you learned.
- Tie it back: Summarize how the story demonstrates your strengths and relates to the job that you’re interviewing for.
Address your weaknesses
No one is perfect, and you don’t have to pretend to be when in front of your potential new boss. Anything negative that you mention in an interview can be spun to show that it was a point of learning. Mention the weakness, provide an example and then share specific ways you are working on or around this weakness. What did you learn from the situation? How would you handle it differently moving forward? This takes practice, so it’s helpful to prepare your response to this question ahead of time.
Practice out loud
After you’ve prepared some responses and START stories, try practicing them out loud. Whether you practice by yourself in front of a mirror, with a friend or with a career development advisor, this is a great way to feel more confident and prepared before your interview.
You can also use online interview preparation tools like InterviewStream. This mock interview practice portal records your responses to random pre-recorded interview questions, or you can create a customized interview. Only you can see your responses unless you want feedback from your peers, industry professionals or a career development advisor.
Think of your own questions
An interview is a two-way street. Just as they are asking questions to learn about you, you should ask questions to be sure this is the right job for you. If you don’t come prepared with questions, the interviewer might assume you haven’t done your research or you’re not interested.
You can ask about the day-to-day responsibilities of the job, the company culture or important qualities needed to excel in the position. Learn more about how to prepare your own interview questions.
If you have a virtual interview, become familiar with the platform you are using (Zoom, Google Meet, etc.) to avoid technical issues. Test your camera and microphone. Find a quiet location where you won’t be interrupted, and make sure there’s nothing distracting in your background.
Be sure to present yourself professionally, including what you choose to wear. This doesn’t mean you need to wear a suit, but make sure the clothes you wear reflect the job you want. Even with a virtual interview, it’s best to dress up from head to toe. You never know if you’ll need to stand up during your conversation.
For more tips to help you with your job or internships search, check out weekly virtual programs and workshops from Career Services. These free workshops will share best practices for resumes, making progress in your search (especially during challenging times) and more.